Caution signs

Proceed with Caution with these 3 Client Types

As communications professionals, we encounter all types of personalities, company cultures, and work styles. On occasion, we may have clients who are so difficult that we have to sever the relationship. However, there are other client types that may not have difficult personalities but possess a work style that can be challenging. In this post, we’ll take a look at three challenging client types and share tips on how you can manage them.

The disappearing client. These clients are full of enthusiasm for getting started but have a hard time giving you what you need to finish. Dealing with this client type can feel like playing a cruel game of whack-a-mole. They are filled with good intentions but you may spend more time following up than doing the actual work.

The disappearing client not only slows progress but can hinder your outcomes. Because this client type does not see their own role in the process, they can also fail to see how their actions impede your success. This can come back to bite you when the client or others in the organization are not satisfied with results.

The fix: Empathize with their workload and suggest delegating reviews and approvals to someone else in their organization. Point out that it can save them valuable time without stalling the momentum. If the client insists on being involved, set regular dates for reviews and feedback. You may have to resort to weekly phone calls. Finally, make sure to document everything.  You can overcome the challenge of some disappearing clients, but if the problem persists, and you cannot deliver effective results, you may have to replace the client.

The overthinker. This client is very cerebral and thinks long and hard about everything including where commas are placed in a press release. They seem to suffer from analysis paralysis and it makes it difficult to move projects along.  While we appreciate their thoughtfulness and willingness to be collaborative, this client type can really stall forward momentum.

The fix: You can help the client by taking the lead and making firm recommendations to keep things moving forward. When you give them items for review, be very specific in what they should look for, or they will get mired in the details. When presenting strategies, reporting progress or even gathering information, focus on the big picture, or you may risk them getting lost in the details. Have the client designate someone or suggest someone when you need to gather detailed information. For example, “I’ll follow up with Glen in accounting to get the costs breakdown.

The agreeable client. Believe it or not, clients that are too nice can be a challenge too. The agreeable client, on the surface, seems like a dream client. This client seems to value your expertise, and never challenges your opinions. They sign off on things quickly and appear satisfied with your work. However, the agreeable client may simply have difficulty with confrontation. This client type may go along with things until they don’t and then you feel blindsided by their unhappiness or worse, notice to quit.

The fix: Not every nice client is suspect but it is important to help clients provide feedback and be part of the process. Ask confirming questions, such as, “Is this what you were expecting?” or  “Are there adjustments you would like to make?” You want to make them feel at ease with providing feedback, yet maintain your position as the expert.

Over time, every communications consultant encounters all of these client types. Learning to identify and work with clients who are subtly challenging, can save your sanity and your retention rate.

Have you encountered these client types? How did you handle? Please share your insights in the comments or on social media using the #solopr hashtag.

  • Elizabeth Del Toro

    Good overview! Thanks for sharing.